Obamas Talk Education and Inequality at Summit

Focus on increasing low-income students' access to higher education

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Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press

President Barack Obama glances back to first lady Michelle Obama and Troy Simon, as he speaks during an Expanding College Opportunity event, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House complex in Washington.

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama outlined their efforts Thursday to increase access to higher education, using a White House summit with dozens of business and education leaders to draw the connection between college degrees and economic mobility.

“We want to restore the essential promise of opportunity and upward mobility that’s at the heart of America,” the President said in a joint speech with the First Lady. “The notion that if you work hard, you can get ahead, you can improve your situation in life, you can make something of yourself.”

Obama promised to push for broadening educational opportunities using both “the power of the pen and the power of the telephone”—to sign executive orders that advance his agenda when he can’t rally Congress, and to use the power of the office to bring stakeholders together.

“Today is a great example of how, without a whole bunch of new legislation, we can advance this agenda,” Obama said.

More than 80 college presidents, philanthropic leaders and business executives attended Thursday’s summit and presented over 100 commitments that the president and National Economic Council hope will help get more low-income students to attend college. Organizations including The College Board, the nonprofit organization that administers the SAT, presented plans to better connect students with information they need about not only applying to college, but to the schools that best suit their needs and abilities.

Bridget Terry Long, a dean and professor at the Harvard University School of Education, said during a panel session that while getting more information to students is important, access alone does not ensure that they will attend and finish college.

“If we build it they won’t necessarily come,” Long said. “We have to be proactive with outreach.”

Michelle Obama said students from low-income backgrounds often overcome huge barriers just to attend college.

“Just to make it to college, these students have already overcome so much,” she said. “We can’t think of those experiences as weaknesses, in fact they are just the opposite. They are strengths.”


@SemperFi1946 Firstly he is the president so every American can call him their own. Secondly your comments are racially based. May I suggest that you change your screen name to semper infidelis, as it would be more fitting based on your opinion. Semper Fidelis is Latin for "Always Faithful" or "Always Loyal, I see not loyalty here. The US ranks well behind several "underdeveloped" nations in several categories in educational attainment and access to higher education. That is a fact, not an opinion. Everyone deserves a high quality world class education. Finally- there is one category the US leads all other nations in: Highest rate of income inequality, which is also tied to educational attainment. 


If you are black and can keep a b average at a third rate high school - you can get a free ride to college somewhere.  Where do white kids with similar qualifications get this type of treatment - answer - nowhere!  Ever since Obama has been elected everything is seen as racist and everything is viewed through the prism of race - the United States according to him and his wife is a horrible racist country - even though it elected him.  I guess he forgets he is 50% white and 50% black, not more one than the other.  To call him our first African-American president is wrong as he is our first Bi-racial president, neither whites nor blacks get to call him their own.


@SemperFi1946 When the President Obama speaks about low income kids he is not only talking about black kids. There are many low income white families in this country, so you need to stop making everything about race.  Since Mr. Obama has been elected there are more white people making everything about race than black people